A white banner bearing the words “Never Forget June 4, See You In Victoria Park” appeared on a slope in Kowloon on Friday morning, though by 9.10am, firefighters were already at the site, ready to remove it. It was taken down at about 10am.
So far no one has claimed responsibility for draping the giant banner on the slope near Beacon Hill in Lion Rock Country Park, one day ahead of the annual candlelight vigil to commemorate the Tiananmen Square incident.
Saturday is the 27th anniversary of the crackdown on the student movement in Beijing in 1989.
Every year, the Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movements in China organises a vigil in Victoria Park to mourn those killed during the incident.
But this year, student leaders from several universities have argued that the commemorative activities should come to an end, saying they have not led to any progress and are impeding the city’s democratic development.
Lion Rock became a site of protest during the Occupy movement in 2014 when a group of rock climbers hung a large yellow banner saying “I want real universal suffrage” on the mountain to show support for the pro-democracy movement.
Many in the city associate the “Lion Rock spirit” with striving for a better life, as embodied in the 1970s RTHK drama Under the Lion Rock and its title song.
Meanwhile, more than 300 people, including former student leaders, pan-democrat lawmakers and veteran journalists, have signed a joint petition arguing for the continuation of the candlelight vigil, saying “the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting”.
The petition, entitled “To mourn is to resist”, had collected 336 signatures by 7pm on Thursday.
“Over the past years, we have kept commemorating June 4 and calling on Beijing to reverse its verdict [on the democracy movement]. It is because the struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting,” the petition said.
“Dictators know well that they have to first eliminate people’s memory if they are to eliminate the people’s resistance,” it read.
Initiators of the petition include Occupy Central campaign co-founders Professor Benny Tai Yiu-ting and Professor Chan Kin-man, lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen and former student leaders Mak Tung-wing and Andrew To Kwan-hang.
Among those who have signed are outspoken businessman Ricky Wong Wai-kay, veteran journalist Ching Cheong, lawmakers Lee Cheuk-yan, Emily Lau Wai-hing and Alan Leong Kah-kit and ex-legislator Lee Wing-tat.
On why he signed, Wong said: “At my age, there are some principles that you have to uphold.” He has never shown up at the vigil in past years and will again be absent on Saturday because of overseas engagements. He was an executive committee member of the Chinese University student union in 1981.
Civic Party leader Alan Leong said: “I demand the vindication of those who perished during the June 4, 1989 crackdown not only because it is the least we can do to accord to them the respect they more than deserve, but it is an inevitable step to take before China can once again affirm the importance of personal freedoms and celebrate dreamers and idealists as indispensable contributors to the country’s future.”
Mak said on Thursday he was pleased with the response.
“I am not suggesting that the vigil is the only means to commemorate June 4. But we cannot agree with the localists that it is useless,” Mak said, adding that the annual event had an impact in the international arena. “I don’t think the students’ forums can have the same impact,” he said.
This year, the vigil has faced numerous attacks from young localists. Student unions from major higher education institutions said they would not attended the vigil but would instead hold forums separately to discuss Hong Kong’s development.
The convenor of the pro-independence Hong Kong National Party, Chan Ho-tin, dismissed the Tiananmen crackdown as being “unrelated to Hong Kong”.
Beside the vigil on Saturday, localist group Civic Passion and its allies will hold rallies in Sha Tin, Shau Kei Wan and Tsim Sha Tsui.
The alliance expects some 100,000 people to show up at the vigil.
Police senior superintendent Tse Kwok-wai, of Hong Kong Island regional headquarters, said officers would monitor the situation closely and called on participants to cooperate with officers.
Tse declined to discuss the crowd risk assessment or police deployment but said there would be sufficient manpower to maintain order.
However, a police source said about 700 officers would be deployed in Victoria Park and another 200 would be on standby in case of an ad hoc incident. The source said that up to now, there was no intelligence indicating that there would be a confrontation or violence.